The Beachwood Reporter: Conquering the ‘Net One Niche at a Time

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This content originally appeared on my former Chicagosphere online-media blog, hosted on the Chicago Tribune‘s ChicagoNow network.

I seldom take seriously local bloggers intent on taking over the online world. That is, with one exception: Steve Rhodes, Publisher and Editor of The Beachwood Reporter.

Heading one of Chicago’s top, homegrown news and content networks, every day Rhodes goes up against the best and brightest of the Windy City blogosphere to tell the story of this town from a deliberately critical perspective. It’s a curious kilter with major merit for those who believe the real commodity has never been the dryly objective news, but the subjective newspaper that has always surrounded it in opinionated juiciness.

Many believe just that. Recently, Los Angeles blogger Matt Maggard made a persuasive case for the L.A. Times to recognize the subjective nature of the content actually driving readership. A similar perspective undergirds local sites like ChicagoNow, Gapers Block, and HuffPost Chicago, which rely on opinionated content beats to draw in viewers.

It’s the driving force behind Beachwood Reporter. Each day on Beachwood begins with a morning news roundup, but you won’t find a wooden retelling of the major dailies’ headlines here. Rhodes covers both mainstream and niche news as the spirit moves him, and showcasing a critic’s dubious nature from six years spent as a media and political writer for Chicago Magazine, skewers each news item in the process.

And that’s where Beachwood’s programmatic news content begins and ends. The balance of the site is given over to cultural news and opinion in several quirkily penned channels including Music, TV, Politics, Sports, Books, and a catch-all People, Places, & Things category. While you may find traditional news reported there, for the most part you’ll read the opinion of Rhodes and his small staff of writers on whatever issues are sticking in their craw on a given day, with topics running the gamut from deadly serious to frothily frivolous.

A few examples of recent Beachwood features: a Moonwalk tutorial in honor of Michael Jackson; a roundup of reviews of Wilco’s new album; a diatribe on infomercials; a retelling of an Aldermanic Olympics smackdown that transpired on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight; and a look at Chicago’s still-valid gun ban.

Ongoing columns exist, too. Rhodes and company will tell you what they watched last night, mourn the latest Cubs or White Sox meltdown, review the five “dumbest ideas of the week”, and (*cough*, *cough*) share what they think of local blogs.

Besides being highly entertaining, Beachwood Reporter’s content comes as no surprise to anyone who’s bothered to read the site’s About and FAQs pages. A quote from the former sets the general tone:


“The Beachwood Reporter is an international news-gathering operation dedicated to the proposition that journalism and rock and roll done right are inextricably linked; that truth and comedy are two sides of different coins that, when rubbed together properly, can mutate into a slug that will efficiently disable a parking meter; and that while bad news travels fast, our news travels even faster.”

This quote from the latter gets right to the point:


“What is the Beachwood Reporter? It’s all that–and more.”

The sardonic subjectivity of Beachwood Reporter definitely serves as a tasty wrapper for the mainstream and niche news nuggets to be found there. Among Rhodes hopes for the future is to increase the objective news on offer, with the addition of a City section as a home for real urban and investigative reporting.

According to Rhodes, other killer ideas to continue to widen the site’s scope are in the works, too. I’d love to tell you what they are, but if Rhodes told me, he’d probably kill me to make sure I didn’t blab.

I’m fine with that. I’d rather be surprised by whatever highly engaging content Rhodes has up his sleeve next than live my life peeking around blind corners waiting for him to mete out justice over the disclosure of trade secrets.

Never cross a blogger with a vision, folks.

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What do you think?